PREVIEW: Luton Town v Barnet

It was a case of all change at the Hive this week when head coach Graham Westley's two month tenure was ended after just two wins from 11 games, with head of technical Mark McGhee departing as well.

Friday, 23rd March 2018, 11:07 am
Updated Friday, 23rd March 2018, 11:10 am

All change might be pushing it a little bit in all honesty, as taking the hot seat for the fifth time in his career was none other than Martin Allen.

The 52-year-old was first apppointed in March 2003, spending a season at the club before heading to Brentford.

He was then back in March 2011 for a three game spell, then April 2012 for another two months, leading Barnet to Football league safety.

Allen had a longer spell from March 2014 to Decmber 2016, guiding the club to the Conference title but was enticed away by Conference big spenders Eastleigh, where he only managed three months, sacked after two wins from 14.

Since then he has been working in the media but with the Bees’ League Two status hanging by a thread, Allen is back to try and save them with just eight games to go.

He has some job on his hands though, Barnet currently seven points adrift of safety and on a shocking run of form, winning just twice since December 16, drawing four and losing 10 matches.

Speaking to the club’s website about the drastic change at such a pivotal stage of the season, chairman Tony Kleanthous said: “In fairness to Graham, he has been absolutely great to work with and the team ethic has definitely improved under him.

“Who knows, if I had made the appointment at the start of the season we could well have been going for that promotion today.

“However, statistically no-one has achieved even a one point per game return and that means relegation so after two successive poor home performances and with the season running out, I had to go for one last throw of the dice.

“This meant turning to the only man I know who can hopefully restore some belief and get the wins we need to salvage our League status.

“Sitting on my hands and doing nothing was not an option so here we are again, another Monday another manage.

“Martin is back. His remit is simple, clear the decks, get everyone focussed and win matches!”

Allen himself believes he can revive the club despite the situation looking increasingly bleak, adding: “I am so proud of being the manager that helped get the club into the Football League, so my sole aim is keeping them there.

“I don’t think anyone believes we can stay up, apart from me. We’re so many points behind that it looks like mission impossible, but people have always called me a little bit mad so let’s see what happens.”

Allen has already been laying down a marker since taking over, bringing in Adrian Whitbread as assistant coach, while defender Michael Nelson, who was named assistant coach by Westley, has had his role changed to player-coach.

Rossi Eames, who was in charge earlier in the season, is to stay with the youth team despite being offered a coaching role with the first team.

On the pitch, Allen has appointed midfielder Dan Sweeney as captain for the remainder of the campaign, with Curtis Weston stepping down from the role.

He has also reduced his squad to 20 players, with four players leaving on loan this morning, Jordan Nicholson (Brackley Town), Justin Amaluzor (Bognor Regis Town), Malakai Mars (Farnborough) and Shane Cojocarel (Horsham) all heading out.

Simeon Akinola has also been made available for loan, while Tin Plavotic returned to parent club Bristol City and Matthew Briggs’ non-contract agreement was cancelled, as Allen released all of the players who had been on trial with the Bees.

Team news: Luton are without Luke Gambin and Flynn Downes who are on international duty with Malta and England U19s respectively.

Lawson D’ath is the only absentee as he recovers from a knee injury picked up against Cambridge.

Mauro Vilhete is out for Barnet, as he could well miss the rest of the season.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (18). Bees: Shaquile Coulthirst (10).

Milestones: Defender Alan Sheehan is in line for his 100th appearance for the Hatters this weekend. The 31-year-old was manager Nathan Jones’ first signing back in January 2016 and has scored seven goals in that time.

Man in the middle: Michael Salisbury – official has had 32 matches this season, showing 74 yellows and four reds.

One of the dismissals came in the only Luton match he has refereed, sending off Jordan Cook after only 33 minutes at Grimsby Town in January, although the Hatters went on to win 1-0.

Also had the 0-0 draw at Notts County last campaign, awarding the hosts a last minute penalty which was saved by Christian Walton.

Assistant referees are Stephen Wade and Adrian Waters, with the fourth official Nicholas Kinseley.

In charge: Martin Allen - 52-year-old, who has the nickname ‘Mad Dog’ after a lengthy playing career at QPR, West Ham, Portsmouth and Southend, making almost 400 appearances.

Started his management career when becoming assistant to Alan Pardew at Reading, taking his first top job at Barnet in 2003.

Left for Brentford in March 2004, while he took over at MK Dons in June 2006, then appointed Leicester City boss in May 2007, where he lasted just three months, sacked after four games in charge.

Became Cheltenham manager on September 2008, staying until December 2009, as he became a part time scout for QPR, but was back at the helm again, returning to Barnet for his second spell in March 2011.

Quickly appointed Notts County boss in April, but was sacked by the Magpies in February 2012 and headed back to Barnet as caretaker in April, leaving at the end of the season.

Appointed Gillingham manager in July, sacked in October 2013 and headed back to the Hive for spell number four in March 2014, leading them into the Football League once more.

Opted to drop down to the Conference though for big-spending Eastleigh in December 2016, but only last 14 games, sacked after winning just two out of his 14 matches in charge, before Monday’s shock return to Barnet for his fifth period as manager.

View from the opposition: Martin Allen talking to the Barnet & Potters Bar Times: “We need you (fans) back to support the players, support the team and get behind them and give those players a boost because they do need a boost.

“It’s your club and you can’t just let it fritter away. The chairman’s been proactive doing what he’s doing.

“The only guarantee that we can give you is you’re going to have a team that is going to be competitive, you’re going to have a team that will fight right to the end.

“If you pay your money to come and watch Barnet you know you’re going to be getting a proper performance and everybody’s going to be giving everything to get as many points as we can.”

One to watch: Shaquile Coulthirst – 23-year-old striker who began his career at Tottenham, making one appearance in the Europa League.

Had a number of loan spells at Leyton Orient, Torquay, Southend, York and Wigan, before leaving White Hart Lane permanently for Peterborough in January 2016.

Scored seven goals in 43 games for Posh and was at Mansfield for a stint last season, before joining Barnet in the summer.

Got off to a promising start as he scored nine in his first 15 games, including a hat-trick in Barnet’s 4-1 win at Swindon in September.

Reached double figures during the 2-1 win at Newport in November but has seen his goals dry up completely since, failing to find the net in his last 17 matches.

Still top scorer at the club though after regular marksman John Akinde has bagged just four goals this term.

Friendly faces: Town midfielder Luke Gambin joined Barnet from AFC Wimbledon as an apprentice in 2009, making over 100 appearances for the Bees, scoring 18 goals before joining Luton for an undisclosed fee in January 2017.

Full back Jack Stacey had a brief loan spell at Barnet from Reading in the 2015-16 season, playing just two games.

Olly Lee was signed by Barnet from West Ham in July 2012, making 13 appearances before leaving for Birmingham City in May 2013.

Town goalkeeper coach Kevin Dearden played once for the Bees after joining on loan from Barnet in the 1998-99 season.

That was a 5-2 defeat at Peterborough in the old Division Three, beaten four times by one-time Luton striker Wayne Andrews.

Played for both: Anthony Charles - defender who joined Barnet in the 2004-05 season from Farnborough, helping the club to promotion from the Conference.

Made over 50 appearances for the Bees, going on to have spells at Aldershot, Northampton and Plymouth before moving to Luton in June 2013.

Injuries meant he only played eight times as Town won promotion to League Two as he then went on to play for Nuneaton, Worcester City, Stratford, ending the 2016-17 campaign with Rugby Town.

We’ve got form: Hatters are unbeaten on home soil against the Bees during their five previous visits to Kenilworth Road, having won all four of their league fixtures.

The first meeting, a League Two clash back in December 2008 saw Town triumph 3-1 thanks to strikes from Paul McVeigh, Chris Martin and Michael Townsend’s own goal.

They they triumphed 2-1 in the 2013-14 season and 2-0 in the 2015-16 campaign before last season, running out 3-1 winners.

Alan Sheehan’s superb free kick (37) broke the deadlock, although Bira Dembele levelled six minutes later.

However, goals from Cameron McGeehan (49) and Alex Gilliead (56) ensured Luton once again claimed the points.

Last time out: Luton were held to a 1-1 draw by Barnet in their Checkatrade Trophy group stage clash at Kenilworth Road back in October.

Jack Taylor put the visitors in front on 63 minutes from the penalty spot, but Elliot Lee equalised within 60 seconds and Town went on win the shoot-out 4-3 to gain an extra bonus point.

Hatters: James Shea, James Justin, Jack Senior, Johnny Mullins, Akin Famewo, Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Berry, Lawson D’Ath (Frankie Musonda 46), Aaron Jarvis, Elliot Lee.

Subs not used: Harry Isted, Jack James, Joe Mead, Arthur Read, Josh Neufville, Connor Tomlinson.

Referee: John Busby.

Attendance: 1,530.